PHOTOS: Owen’s top picks of 2020
After five years as a multimedia specialist with Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS), 2020 has looked a bit different for Owen Thomas’s day-to-day responsibilities. In previous years, his projects have included the “Up-Close” photo series to give our readers a behind-the-scenes glimpse into life in the hospital, and innumerable patient photos both in people’s homes or from their hospital beds. But with changes implemented due to COVID-19, part of his focus turned to photos conveying important COVID-19 messaging, like this summer collection urging the public to wear a mask.
Even throughout the pandemic, our team has – safely – captured thousands of powerful photos this year. We’re very grateful to be able to share original photography on our website, social media channels, and in printed materials so our community can see the faces of our staff and patients reflected in the stories we share.
Take a look through the lens of HHS photographer Owen Thomas as he shares his top ten photos of 2020 in the gallery below.
Owen Thomas’s top ten photos of 2020
When did you start at HHS?
I have worked in the HHS Communications and Public Affairs department full-time just shy of 5 years. Prior to that, I had a great relationship with the department and worked on a variety of projects on a casual basis for a few years.
The very first project was for school internship hours. My colleague Scott Levely and I made a tribute video for the pediatric inpatient unit at McMaster Children’s Hospital. It featured stories of ten families, their healthcare journey and showing gratitude for the amazing staff who helped them. It won an award from the Canadian Public Relations Society too!
How did you get into photography?
My start in photography was almost by necessity. I used to publish a music and nightlife magazine with 5000 copies sprinkled around the city each month. Advertising paid for printing costs and I didn’t have a budget for an event photographer. So, I bought a camera and learned quickly.
Drawing and painting for years prior helped with the visually artistic side, so once I learned the technical basics of how cameras and light works, I was on my way. Journalism school helped push the storytelling side of my photography. I don’t really think of myself as a “photographer” though and look at it as one skill in the communication toolbelt.
What do you love about your job?
It’s one of the few positions that has touch points with every facet of our organization. We’ve done stories on acquired brain injury, the engineering of our buildings, community programs, all types of surgeries, uncommon medical cases and the list goes on. I’m surrounded by compassionate people and constantly learning from everyone. Knowing our messaging can have a positive effect on community health is also rewarding.
From a photojournalism perspective, the most mind-blowing experience for me is a three-way tie between a birth (first time seeing one live), an open heart surgery, and observing our trauma team in action.
What’s your favourite thing to photograph?
I love to photograph people while they work with their hands and when they are passionate about what they do! If they’re not working at a desk, people working can make for interesting photos. It could be construction, medical, craft makers, city services – anything with the hands can be an interesting image and a story with one frame.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I fill my time with gardening and motorbikes. It started as a few plants in the backyard three growing seasons ago. Almost the entire backyard is filled now! It’s so rewarding making dinners with the main ingredients coming right off the plant. I’m starting to take the “no dig/no till” approach and focus on building soil quality. With the lack of social interaction this summer, tending to the plants has greatly helped me mentally during these stressful times. I’m still waiting for the baby Meyer lemon tree to finish off its first full size lemon. It’s not big enough to take them to full maturity yet but the flowers smell amazing in the house. It’ll go back outside in the spring.
In the winter, I fix broken motorbikes. It’s a great balance between art and technical knowledge, like Lego for big kids. Plus, afterwards you get to take them to the track and race (not on the street).
What are a couple of fun facts about yourself?
I love my minivan. That might be common knowledge in our department. The van is used like a service vehicle. The passenger seats are never in it. I sleep in it when I’m at the motorcycle racetrack for the weekend or going on random road trips (pre-COVID-19, of course). I’ve slept in it inrandom rural areas of Ontario, New York state, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Virginia, West Virginia and Illinois. Usually it’s to pick up motorbikes/engines/parts along the way.
The best goal I ever scored in youth house league hockey was on my own net. Top cheese trying to clear the puck. My goalie didn’t even have time to flinch.